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July 02, 2015

Governor Wolf vetoes Pennsylvania liquor privatization bill

Wolf advocates for modernization of state-controlled system

Legislation Liquor
Pennsylvania Liquor Matt Rourke/AP

In this Thursday, July 22, 2010 photo, Jay Petrie of Solebury Pa., shops at a state wine and liquor store in New Hope Pa.

Two days after Democratic Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf rejected a Republican-backed primary budget bill and related education and spending bills, the governor vetoed a fourth bill that would have privatized state-controlled sales of wine and liquor.

Wolf has previously endorsed a modernization of the state-controlled system and reinforced his views in a statement on Thursday:

“This legislation falls short of a responsible means to reform our state liquor system and to maximize revenues to benefit our citizen. It makes bad business sense for the Commonwealth and consumers to sell off an asset, especially before maximizing its value. During consideration of this legislation, it became abundantly clear that this plan would result in higher prices for consumers. In the most recent case of another state that pursued the outright privatization of liquor sales, consumers saw higher prices and less selection.
Modernization of our state liquor system would provide additional revenues to the Commonwealth and save important, family-sustaining jobs. We can support and bolster consumer convenience without selling an asset and risking higher prices and less selection for consumers. I am open to options for expanding the availability of wine and beer in more locations, including supermarkets. I have also put other compromises on the table, including variable pricing, direct shipment of wine and expanding state store hours.”

Following the veto, the Pennsylvania DUI Association came out in support of Governor Wolf, WFMZ reports. The association's executive director contends that privatization would lead to increased availability and consumption of alcohol, which would in turn lead to more alcohol-related problems such as assaults, automobile crashes and deaths.

Conversely, the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market think tank, criticized the veto for upholding a "scandal-ridden relic of Prohibition" and a liquor monopoly in Pennsylvania.

It is not yet known whether Wolf intends to sign a bill that would overhaul public sector pension plans for teachers and state workers.